Recently I was asked to briefly describe how COVID-19 has impacted the cottage food industry this year. Here’s what I wrote:
“The pandemic has impacted everyone differently, but it has impacted everyone. Some cottage food businesses have shut down temporarily or permanently, while just as many others have seen their sales skyrocket. More cottage food businesses started this year than any other by far, and overall, the pandemic has caused a huge surge of interest in this industry.”
That’s a very simplified view of what has been a crazy and complex year.
In this post, I’ll dig into some of the major trends and story lines that impacted the cottage food industry in 2020.
Lauren Inazu isn’t your average 13-year-old girl. When she was 8, she recruited friends to sell and market her lemonade stand, Lauren’s Sweet Treats. In 5th grade, she started a school newspaper. And now, she recently launched a cottage food business.
Lauren lives in St. Louis, MO and sells all sorts of baked goods with her new business, Count It All Joy.
Between school, homework, piano lessons, sports, youth group, clubs, and Bible study, Lauren is somehow finding time to fulfill baking orders. Sometimes she likes to surprise her classmates with that fact: “I think it’s always kind of fun to be like, ‘Oh yeah, I just have to go make four dozen cookies tonight for an order.’ And they’re like, ‘An order?'”
Lauren may be one of the most ambitious and mature 13-year-olds I have ever met, but she is not unique in wanting to make a little dough from her baked goods. Many kids reach out to me to ask if it is legal for them to sell their creations.
In this episode, Lauren shares what she’s learned about legally starting her cottage food business as a 13-year-old, in hopes of inspiring other young entrepreneurs to try it out as well.
Cuban-inspired, vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free, organic, low-carb, allergy-friendly, diet-specific, healthy… Noel’s baked goods are certainly unique!
Noel Martinez runs his highly specialized bakery, Mami’s Bakes, from his home kitchen in Pittsburg, PA.
Noel started baking gluten-free for himself when he was diagnosed with celiac disease 20 years ago. Then he started baking sugar-free and low-carb for his “Mami” (mom), who had diabetes.
After Mami passed away in 2019, Noel finally decided to start selling the baked goods that his family and friends had raved about for years.
He started selling to coworkers, and soon enough, they were keeping him busy with orders every week. They also had no problem paying top dollar ($40 for a coffee cake, anyone?) for his products, even though most of them had no diet-specific needs!
Only 6 months in, Noel is still in the early stages of his business. Despite his consistent sales and enthusiastic customers, there are growing pains as well.
Noel shares a view into the ground floor of a new business, including his process for improving recipes, pricing products, building an email list, attracting raving fans, sourcing ingredients, and finding time to run a side business while working two part-time jobs.
Becca Aronowitz from Richmond Hill, GA makes some of the best cake pops you have ever seen.
After Becca quit her job as an art teacher in 2012, she started Sweet Whimsy Shop to sell her cake pops and help support her family.
8 years and 40,000+ cake pops later, Becca has become a true master at the cake pop art form.
But unlike many entrepreneurs that start with big dreams for the future, Becca never envisioned becoming well-known for her cake pops.
As she puts it: “I had not thought about that at all. I just thought this is a way that I can sell cake pops. That was really where it ended.”
But that’s most definitely not where it ended for this “pretty extreme introvert”. So far, her largest order totaled around $4,000, and her cake pops have even appeared on national television!
Becca talks everything cake pops: making, pricing, sculpting, decorating, inverting, etc. She also shares her journey from art teacher to business owner, how she handles social media as an introvert, how she runs her business on two hours per day, and some crazy experiences she’s had along the way.
When Dr. Christine Bertz started beekeeping, she didn’t care if she made any money from it. In fact, her main motivation was to support pollinator conservation efforts. But now, only three years in, her honey business is blossoming and she is having trouble keeping up with customer demand!
Christine lives in Memphis, TN and sells honey and jams with her cottage food business, B & Bees Provisions. In addition to selling, she gives her products away to benefit charities through her participation in triathlons and marathons.
Christine talks about the importance of beekeeping, how to start a beehive in your backyard, and how her fear of bees has transformed into an utter fascination and love of them.
When it comes to creating custom decorated cookies, Tina is very prepared. She owns a plethora of cookie cutters (including over 500 just for Christmas), and amazingly, she is always looking to buy more!
Tina lives in Saginaw, MI and has run her popular cookie business, the Chunky Chicken Cookie Company, for the past three years. Whether she is designing cookies or naming chickens, her creativity shines through.
Tina talks about how she manages to decorate hundreds of cookies each week, as well as pricing, resources, and what she’s learned over the years. She also shares her philosophy about putting life onto cookies to make the world a happier place.
For David Kaminer, sourdough bread is a way of life. After graduating from culinary school and spending 15 years working in commercial bakeries and restaurants, he built a pizza oven into his kitchen and opened Raleigh Street Bakery in Denver, CO in 2015.
He now has dozens of customers who show up each week to pick up their near-perfect sourdough baguettes, boules, and batards from his in-home bakery.
After working in a factory that produced 40,000 loaves of bread per day, David appreciates the slower pace of his cottage food business, plus the opportunities it brings to connect with his local community.
David talks about the ins and outs of running a lucrative home bakery, intentionally limiting business to prioritize his family, and why he only sells one type of product: sourdough bread.
Farmer, baker, author, law advocate, speaker, mother, podcaster, entrepreneur… Lisa Kivirist wears many hats!
She and her husband, John Ivanko, run a B&B ecofarm in Wisconsin, and co-authored the most popular book for the cottage food industry: Homemade for Sale.
Lisa is a national speaker, runs a podcast, and was one of three plaintiffs in the lawsuit that gave Wisconsin bakers their freedom to sell. Most recently, she spearheaded a new project to help farmers make the most of their produce by selling it as cottage foods.
Lisa talks about living off the land, moving away from the corporate life-style, creatively packaging products, diversifying income streams, advocating for your laws, and everything in between.
Have you ever dreamed of opening a brick and mortar bakery someday?
So did Diana, the owner of I Love Pie in Carmichael, CA. But she never thought her dream would come true so soon!
After selling at the farmers market for a year and a half, her pie business grew so much that she expanded into her own commercial kitchen and storefront. And now, just 6 months later, she is planning to open a second location!
On paper, it looked like a recipe for failure: selling a common food item (regular fruit pies) in a highly competitive and health-conscious market, all while juggling a full-time job.
So how did she do it? Why was she so successful? Ultimately, you will see that it wasn’t the product, or the market, but rather, Diana herself, that made all the difference.
If you are thinking of selling your homemade food, then this episode is for you!
For this inaugural episode of The Forrager Podcast, I decided to give you a crash course on the first things you need to know to start a cottage food business.
You’ll learn about the cottage food industry and better understand how you can legally start a food business from your home kitchen.
You will also hear about my own journey in starting a cottage food business, what I learned along the way, and why I started this podcast.
If you want to start a home food business, there are a number of potential limitations that you should be aware of. Learn about the different limitations that states may include in their cottage food laws.
Many states limit the amount of homemade food that you can sell. Learn about why sales limits exist, how they’re enforced, and why they shouldn’t stop your food business from taking off.
In most states, you can only sell certain types of homemade food. Most cottage food laws only allow nonperishable food items, but some states allow almost all types of food, while other states are very restrictive. Learn about what types of homemade food products you can sell under your cottage food law.
Nearly all states require a label on cottage food products, and there are many things to consider when creating labels for your home food business.
When starting a home food business, it’s usually a good idea to take some form of food safety training, and it’s often required. Learn about the three most common types of food safety training.
When starting a cottage food operation, you may have to get your home kitchen inspected. Learn about some of the things you should check before an inspection.
Do you need to get a business license to sell homemade food? Learn about what to consider when setting up a business license for a cottage food operation.
When starting a home food business, you will likely need to deal with the health or ag department. Learn about what you should be aware of when contacting these departments.
Zoning laws may be the largest barrier to starting your cottage food business. Learn about why zoning laws exist and what you can do to comply with them.
For most of us, starting a business isn’t easy. Let’s say you want to start your home food business — what do you do? Depending on where you live, there could be any number of barriers between you and your first sale. Learn about a couple of the first steps to take when starting a cottage food operation.